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Braves' Venezuelans have eyes on homeland


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Like many of their fellow countrymen employed by other Major League clubs, Braves players and coaches who hail from Venezuela have spent the early portion of Spring Training closely monitoring the violent political unrest unfolding in their native land.

"It's sad," Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez said. "I don't want to see the news anymore, to tell you the truth. I'm talking to Mom every day, and [my family is] all OK. But it's sad. They don't know what is going to happen."

Braves Minor League catcher Jose Yepez was unsettled earlier this week, as he saw his house while watching video footage of a riotous scene that included gunfire. While obviously concerned about the safety of his friends and family members, Yepez chose not to address the ugly situation that has claimed the lives of at least eight Venezuelans.

"I've told [my friends and family] to stay in the house and don't do anything stupid," Braves pitcher Freddy Garcia said. "It's really bad."

Braves left-handed reliever Luis Avilan has expressed his feelings on Twitter and remained in contact with loved ones just two weeks ago, before coming to the United States for the start of Spring Training.

"It's just terrible that the government is abusing and killing people," Avilan said. "It's kind of frustrating. I can do nothing about it. I'm here, far away. It's kind of hard for us being here while that situation in Venezuela is happening to them."

Avilan said some of his friends are among those who have rioted in opposition to President Nicolas Maduro and the country's socialist government.

"My friends are out on the streets now, too, fighting against the government," Avilan said. "We've all been talking about it. They have been in the streets protesting every single day. I always tell them to not do crazy stuff in the streets and stay in the houses. But they are always saying they want to go to the streets and do something for the country."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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